S-League: From player to refs' chief?

It is an often-heard lament that referees make wrong decisions in football matches because they have not played the game at the highest level.

In that respect, the Singapore refereeing fraternity is set for a boost.

Sources have revealed that former Singapore international defender Lim Tong Hai is set to be appointed chairman of the Football Association of Singapore’s (FAS) referees’ committee.

It is believed to be the first time a former Lion will hold the position.

Former Singapore midfielder Malek Awab is one who supports the move.

Said Malek: “I’ve always said that referees should have at least played the game before, then they’ll understand the game better, from the players’ perspective.

“One thing that can definitely be improved in our region is the communication between referees and players.

“Tong Hai may not have been a referee, but I think it will be a good thing if he is appointed chairman, because he is a former player.”

While the appointment is not finalised yet, The New Paper understands that Lim, now a lecturer at ITE College East, was recently offered the role.

When contacted by The New Paper, the former Singapore captain would only say: “I would love to contribute to Singapore football in any way I can, in whatever position that the FAS deems I’m fit for.”

Lim, 44, was appointed a member of the FAS council at an annual general meeting in September last year, a role he will hold for a two-year term.

Former referees’ committee chairman, lawyer Mohamed Muzammil, vacated the post at the end of last season.

At the Fifa Referees Assistance Programme’s opening ceremony last Friday, it was revealed that the 2014 referees’ committee had yet to be formed, ahead of the start of the Great Eastern-Yeo’s S-League season on Feb 21.

Fifa refereeing instructor Farkhad Abdullev believes it is not a cause for concern.

Said the Uzbek: “This can sometimes happen, but I don’t think it is a big issue.

“Singapore referees have a good role model in (2006 World Cup referee) Shamsul Maidin... and there are referees with potential here.”

While the referees’ committee is the decision-making body, the FAS’ referees’ department, made up of federation employees, is in charge of the day-today running of referees’ affairs.


Francis Lee, a former manager of the FAS’ referees’ department, believes Lim’s appointment is a positive move.

“He has been a player and also an administrator with (S-League club) Geylang International, so he will definitely understand the perspective of players and clubs,” said Lee.

“But as referees’ committee chairman, he needs to be careful not to be seen as giving in to clubs too much.”

The referees fraternity has faced challenges in recent years.

Some match officials have not turned up for fixtures, while cases of referees moonlighting have cropped up.

Criticism of poor refereeing standards has also never gone away.

Lee believes Lim’s first task is to appoint an able committee around him.

He said: “That’s really the most important job, to get the right people into the committee.”


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